Produced by Kevin Shirley
The dust had barely settled on the Anglo-American supergroup's first live shows in December when they were back in the studio recording their second album, less than four months after the release of their debut. Possibly too soon for some, especially given they have only played three live shows in two cities in the UK so far, so many fans have barely had a chance to digest the first set of songs, but the band wanted to keep their momentum going, reserving a proper tour for the Summer of 2011 and beyond.
One of the only problems with debut album Black Country was the almost-complete anonymity of keyboard player Derek Sherinian who, for nearly the entire length of the album, simply couldn't be heard. Steps have been made to correct that here, where he gets more solo time between Bonamassa's guitar solos, and is higher in Kevin Shirley's mix than before. Overall though it can't be said this is Shirley's best work. Bonamassa's guitar sounds artifically heavied and Bonham's drums flat. Joe's solos shine though and the quieter moments throughout the album, like closer Cold and acoustically-driven The Battle For Hadrian's Wall are brilliantly produced.
In terms of sound and songs, fans who enjoyed the first album will enjoy this. The sound they created on Black Country, equal parts Hughes, Bonamassa and Deep Purple, is still there, perhaps with a little more Purple this time (Sherinian's solos are very Jon Lord, and some of the heavier guitar grooves sound like they've been lifted from Steve Morse's lick library). A few of the songs go on a little too long (Smokestack Woman, Save Me), and some people might be a little annoyed that Bonamassa again only gets two lead vocals, but generally speaking the quality set out with the first album is still there on the second, with some new ideas and no simple retreads.
Around half of the album, including An Ordinary Son, full-on blues run through Little Secret, Cold, The Battle For Hadrian's Wall and monster groover Man In The Middle are up there with the best of Black Country, but some of the rest, particularly first single The Outsider, obvious Hughes solo effort Crossfire and tiresomely relentless Save Me are below that level.
2 nearly does enough to match Black Country, but only on the strength of some of its songs. When the full set is taken into account, it isn't up to its predecessor. There's too much familiarity about tracks like I Can See Your Spirit, Faithless and Smokestack Woman, and not enough really great hooks. The best from this set, alongside most of the first album, will make for one hell of a live setlist though.
“ some new ideas and no simple retreads ”
Tracklist: The Outsider / Man In The Middle / The Battle For Hadrian's Wall / Save Me / Smokestack Woman / Faithless / An Ordinary Son / I Can See Your Spirit / Little Secret / Crossfire / Cold
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